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animal care

Apr 17, 2020

If Dr. Karen Wolf needs another skilled set of hands for a walrus procedure, she knows who to call. And if Dr. Allison Case has a beaver or owl that needs attention while she’s out of town, she has a second clinic just a van-trip away. The two women are head veterinarians of Point Defiance … Continued

Apr 03, 2020

We may be closed due to recent restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), but our keepers and veterinary team are still at the zoo every day caring for our animals. From enrichments to treats, check-ups to scratch-downs, here’s how we’re #closedbutstillcaring. Click on any image to start the slideshow. Mouse over to see … Continued

Mar 30, 2020

NOTE: This exam took place before recent social distancing recommendations were mandated. “Everyone ready?” Seven heads nodded, seven pairs of feet braced in neoprene boots, and four pairs of thickly-gloved hands readied a wide, webbed stretcher. The aquarist team had gathered in the South Pacific Aquarium isolation pool at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, with … Continued

Mar 12, 2020

“There’s a dentist for that?!” That might be the first reaction for many when they hear Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s sea otter Libby took a trip to the dentist’s office (AKA the healthcare center at the zoo). Dr. Kevin Stepaniuk, FAVD, DAVDC owns Veterinary Dentistry Education and Consulting Services and Veterinary Intraoral Radiology Reading … Continued

Feb 21, 2020

On the visitor side, the jellyfish gallery in the Pacific Seas Aquarium is a serene blue world of floating, pulsing forms. From eggcup to dinner-plate size, they hover in a kind of translucent eternity. Behind a nearby door, however, is another world; a world of bubbling tanks, petri dishes and complicated piping. This is the … Continued

Feb 20, 2020

It was about as far away visually as you could get from a cute clouded leopard cub. Scientifically, though, it was the first step of the journey. As veterinary and keeper staff from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium watched closely, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) angled a laparoscopic camera inside … Continued

Feb 13, 2020

How does it feel to be the oldest siamang? Well, for Cho Cho, snuggled up with his companion Dudlee on a crisp fall morning at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, it seemed pretty cozy. This year Cho Cho is celebrating his 53rd birthday – which makes him the oldest siamang on record in human care … Continued

Feb 06, 2020

Caring for the World’s Oldest Male Polar Bear  As Boris splashed in the pool, it was as if age didn’t matter. Paw-slamming a brown ball, pushing around a blue trash can and play-wrestling with his younger buddy Blizzard, the 34-year-old polar bear swam and flipped like a youngster. Then he hauled himself out, shook out … Continued

Jan 30, 2020

A new Atlantic green sea turtle, named Bruno, recently arrived at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. He’s about 23-years-old and came to Tacoma from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Nebraska. On Tuesday, Bruno received a routine check-up with the Zoo’s veterinary staff. Bruno, like all animals new to the Zoo, must get a … Continued

Jan 28, 2020

It may have looked like a penguin foot spa – but it was so much more. On a cold winter morning, Purple the penguin lay back comfortably asleep in a cozy clinic room with each foot resting in a little tub of liquid. But this wasn’t just a foot soak. The little bird was about … Continued

Dec 16, 2019

Inspired to give your own pet an enriching treat these holidays? “Enrichments are a big part of caring for an animal,” explains Sara Mattison, staff biologist at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater and chair of the Enrichment Committee at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. “They give mental and physical stimulation, and encourage natural behaviors that … Continued

Dec 12, 2019

WATCH THEM: We’re giving the meerkats another holiday surprise 11am Sunday Dec. 22 in Kids’ Zone. ’Twas the month before Christmas and inside Kids’ Zone, The meerkats received a surprise of their own; A stocking was hung on the rock wall with care, But the one on the ground was a different affair! The keepers … Continued

Oct 15, 2019

For Veterinary Technician Week 2019, we’re not just celebrating our wonderful vet techs – we’re introducing them! Vet techs assist veterinarians in every aspect of animal health care, and they care deeply about our animals – often in very practical ways. We couldn’t care for our animals without them. Meet Sara Dunleavy, full-time clinical veterinary … Continued

Oct 15, 2019

For Veterinary Technician Week 2019, we’re not just celebrating our wonderful vet techs – we’re introducing them to you! Vet techs assist veterinarians in every aspect of animal health care, and they care deeply about our animals – often in very practical ways. We couldn’t care for animals without them. Meet Julie Lemon, full-time vet … Continued

Oct 07, 2019

It’s possibly the best job in the world. Adrienne Umpstead, staff biologist at the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater, sits in a pool of sunlight just near the tamandua habitat. One foot propped on a stool, her lap is covered with a small pillow and fleece blanket. One hand is poised with a bottle; the other … Continued

Sep 03, 2019

Big news: Our new baby tamandua is a girl, and her name is Chiquita! And since her weight was low at birth and she was slow to gain weight despite nursing, she’s getting extra veterinary and keeper care around the clock to help her grow and thrive. “She’s doing very well,” said head veterinarian Dr. … Continued

Aug 21, 2019

If you’re an apex jungle predator, it’s pretty important to have strong teeth. So when Kirana, one of the four Sumatran tigers at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, needed some work on a fractured canine last week, she had a team of 12 veterinarians, veterinary dentists, technicians and keepers to take care of her. “Can … Continued

Jul 29, 2019

At 8 a.m. the check-up line was assembled. Two veterinarians, two veterinary technicians, a curator and two Rocky Shores keepers all stood poised at three long tables in the seabird underwater viewing area at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Carefully lined up on the tables were a scale, spare leg bands, clippers, vials, syringes primed … Continued

Jul 17, 2019

Turns out, when you give physicals to giant pouched rats, some things are easy – like examining their long curved front teeth. Getting a blood sample from those tiny veins? Not so easy. But it’s a vital part of assessing health. “I’ll try the jugular first,” says head veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf, gently parting soft … Continued

Jul 16, 2019

He’s healthy, weighs around 25 pounds and follows Mom everywhere. The Malayan tapir calf born July 12 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium has just received his first wellness exam, and he appears to be in perfect health, says Dr. Karen Wolf, head veterinarian. “He is bright, exploring his environment and is in good body … Continued

Jul 10, 2019

It took three staff members, six adult volunteers, three youth Zoo Guides and four classes of high schoolers to shovel sand for polar bears – but it was worth it. On a late spring day, Boris and Blizzard, the polar bears at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, shifted to their inside dens for the day … Continued

Jun 05, 2019

For most of us, a wellness exam at 52 is all about middle-age health issues. For Cho Cho, it’s an impressive tribute to a senior siamang and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium staff who care for him – because at 52, Cho Cho is believed to be the oldest siamang in human care in … Continued

May 16, 2019

PUPDATE: The red wolf pups are now roaming outside on view to the public. They also have names – meet them here. When Dr. Karen Wolf picks up eight newborn red wolf pups one by one, it’s more than just a routine – though adorable – new pup exam. It’s a victory. “American red wolves … Continued

Apr 24, 2019

It’s magical enough to stand inside the Pacific Seas Aquarium and gaze at shimmering scales, cruising sea turtles or impossibly long wolf eels. But with x-ray vision, a whole new underwater world reveals itself. Thanks to our veterinary team, who regularly take radiographs of our Pacific Seas Aquarium animals to check on their health and … Continued

Apr 08, 2019

Aquarist Mikiko Williams, clad in a black wetsuit, stood in the Japanese Spider Crab habitat at the Pacific Seas Aquarium, reached down, gently picked up an animal that weighed about 8 pounds and hoisted it up and out of the water. It was just after 8:30 a.m., the Zoo would open in an hour, and … Continued

Mar 27, 2019

In a corridor surrounded by pipes, tanks and equipment, three women crouch over a tub. One – an intern veterinarian – carefully handles a Q-tip swab. The second – a veterinarian – readies a microscope slide. The third – an aquarist – has her gloved hands submerged, gently holding a china rockfish. A fourth aquarist … Continued

Feb 28, 2019

Zoological Aide Katie Schachtsick holds a long-handled back-scratcher and applies just the right amount of pressure as she rubs it across the black-and-white hide of endangered Malayan tapir Yuna. It’s clear Yuna enjoys the attention – and the back rub – leaning into the scratcher and then moving her stout legs down, getting into a … Continued

Feb 25, 2019

Cross your paws. And think of tiger cubs! Our endangered female Sumatran tigers, 5-year-old Kali and 4-year-old Kirana, could be pregnant. Both were artificially inseminated Jan. 30 with sperm from 14-year-old Mohan. We won’t know for a few weeks if a pregnancy resulted, but if successful, tiger cubs would be born in May. But it … Continued

Jan 23, 2019

At age 33, Boris is very likely the oldest male polar bear on the planet. We know he’s the oldest male of his species in zoo-related databases that keep track of polar bears worldwide. And since polar bears live longer under human care than they do in the wild, we think he is the champ. … Continued

Jan 07, 2019

Behind the Asian Forest Sanctuary at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, volunteer Scott Murdock has disappeared behind a vine. The massive spread of large, furling leaves engulfs Murdock’s head, leaving visible just legs on a ladder. Sprawled in the sun, the vines smell rich and green. It’s the Zoo’s kiwifruit arbor, and Murdock gently twists … Continued